Trust, mistrust and effect upon expectations as to future parental capacities
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE MOTHER’S MENTAL HEALTH AND PERSONALITY VULNERABILITIES
- On the evidence available I do not consider the mother suffers from any mental illness that requires ongoing treatment. However, the mother’s behaviour on each of the occasions discussed above lends weight to the opinion of Dr J that the mother has personality vulnerabilities in the cluster B range i.e. dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behaviour. These vulnerabilities impact detrimentally on her parenting capacity particularly in relation to her lack of insight into the effect of her behaviour on the children and on the parenting relationship. That lack of insight was apparent during her cross-examination in relation to her secrecy surrounding her departure from her previous employers; her minimisation and misleading of the father and the Court about the incident on 10 August 2016 and her behaviour on 7 December 2017 including lying to the father and having B lie to the father.
- Despite specific recommendations being made by Dr K in her first report e.g. undertaking a parenting course, meeting her financial obligations, being more transparent with the father in relation to her functioning etc., the mother has not taken the opportunity to rebuild trust with the father. That is regrettable.
- Despite the level of mistrust between the parties they each propose that an order for equal shared parental responsibility be made for major long term issues. Neither parent envisaged an inability to agree about a major long term issue (as opposed to day to day issues). The parties have already agreed that the children will complete their schooling at their current school and will continue to attend church at their school. Neither child has any significant health issue.
- In those circumstances I am persuaded that equal shared parental responsibility is in the children’s best interests.
- I reject the mother’s proposal for an equal time arrangement for the following reasons:-
- the mother’s limited insight on the effect of her behaviour on the children and on the parenting relationship;
- her failure to take the opportunity to rebuild the trust of the father by adopting the suggestions made by the family report writer;
- when the children live predominantly with one parent it provides greater stability and a feeling of having a home base;
- more co-operation in day to day matters is required in an equal time arrangement. I accept Dr K’s opinion in this regard;
- any concern the father has about the mother’s parenting capacity will be reduced if the children live predominantly with him;
- I do not consider that the parents have a sufficiently co-operative relationship to manage an equal time arrangement.
- I nevertheless consider that it is in the children’s best interests to spend significant and substantial time with the mother for the following reasons:-
- the children have a close and loving relationship with the mother which will be able to be maintained by spending regular time with her;
- they have spent alternate Wednesdays to Mondays with the mother since December 2017 and that arrangement appears to be positive for the children;
- the children, while young, have consistently expressed a wish to spend more time with the mother so I am not inclined to reduce the time they currently spend with her, despite the recommendation of the independent children’s lawyer;
- I remain concerned about the mother’s erratic behaviour on occasions and consider her capacity to manage will be enhanced by spending less than equal time with the children.
- I am satisfied that the children will be able to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents by the order proposed and that it is in their best interests to do so. I also consider that the proposed order minimises the risk to the children of exposure to conflict and to the mother’s, at times, erratic or impulsive behaviour.
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Maroochydore / Kawana / Birtinya / Noosa